Page last updated at 02:11 GMT, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

More help for adults with autism

Lonely adult
Adults with autism do not get proper support, campaigners say

Plans have been published by ministers in England to tackle the "social exclusion" of adults with autism.

Campaigners have long accused the state of ignoring adults with the condition - just 15% are in employment and half live at home.

But the cross-government strategy sets out a range of measures to help them have "rewarding and fulfilling" lives, including training for Jobcentre staff.

Experts said the steps provided "achievable solutions" to the problems.

There are about 400,000 adults with the condition in the country.

These are split evenly between those with a learning disability, sometimes known as low-functioning, and those without one, known as high functioning.

People with autism have a huge contribution to make - shutting them out deprives everyone
Phil Hope, care services minister

While children are often supported through the school system, help for adults has been much more patchy.

Just last year the House of Commons' Public Accounts Committee said they had been "cast adrift".

This strategy - the first of its kind - accepts they have often been excluded, but has called for a sustained effort to tackle the issue.

A national board of experts is being set up to co-ordinate the response.

They will lead a series of projects including better training for health and social care staff and guidance for the public sector to make their services more accessible.

Employment advisers working for Jobcentres will also get training on how to help people with the condition into work.

Care services minister Phil Hope said he wanted the strategy to be a "foundation for change".

"People with autism have a huge contribution to make - shutting them out deprives everyone."

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of Cambridge University's Autism Research Centre, said he hoped the strategy would help a group of people who were often "invisible and marginalised".

He added: "It pinpoints achievable solutions that could radically improve the lives of people with autism."

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